Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Prebyterian, Romane, Catholique"....how about Lutherane?

Here is another fine example of why I have been on an Anglican kick in my theology readings. This short piece was penned by Rev. Dr. Thomas Swadlin in 1657. He puts Presbyterians to one side, Romanists to the other, and asserts that he stands in the middle as a "Catholique."

This is fascinating for a Lutheran to read. We disagree with Swadlin and agree with the Presbyterians when it comes to the question of the New Testament Office of the Ministry. For the rest, we are very much on Swadlin's side - and his rhetoric in this short work is very beautiful and very persuasive. So even on the point in which we disagree with Swadlin, we have here a fine summary of the best case against our position, and thus a fine tool against which to test our own arguments.

Enjoy Whether it is better to turn Presbyterian, Romane, or to continue what I am, Catholique, in the matter of Religion?


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Logic of the Antinomians of Luther's Day

 From On the Councils and the Church (1539)
That is what my Antinomians, too, are doing today, who are preaching beautifully and (as I cannot but think) with real sincerity about Christ’s grace, about the forgiveness of sin and whatever else can be said about the doctrine of redemption. But they flee as if it were the very devil the consequence that they should tell the people about the third article, of sanctification, that is, of the new life in Christ. They think one should not frighten or trouble the people, but rather always preach comfortingly about grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and under no circumstances use these or similar words, “Listen! You want to be a Christian and at the same time remain an adulterer, a whoremonger, a drunken swine, arrogant, covetous, a usurer, envious, vindictive, malicious, etc.!” Instead they say, “Listen! Though you are an adulterer, a whoremonger, a miser, or other kind of sinner, if you but believe, you are saved, and you need not fear the law. Christ has fulfilled it all!”
Tell me, my dear man, is that not granting the premise and denying the conclusion? It is, indeed, taking away Christ and bringing him to nought at the same time he is most beautifully proclaimed! And it is saying yes and no to the same thing. For there is no such Christ that died for sinners who do not, after the forgiveness of sins, desist from sins and lead a new life. Thus they preach Christ nicely with Nestorian and Eutychian logic that Christ is and yet is not Christ. They may be fine Easter preachers, but they are very poor Pentecost preachers, for they do not preach de sanctificatione et vivificatione Spiritus Sancti, “about the sanctification by the Holy Spirit,” but solely about the redemption of Jesus Christ, although Christ (whom they extoll so highly, and rightly so) is Christ, that is, he has purchased redemption from sin and death so that the Holy Spirit might transform us out of the old Adam into new men—we die unto sin and live unto righteousness, beginning and growing here on earth and perfecting it beyond, as St. Paul teaches. Christ did not earn only gratia, “grace,” for us, but also donum, “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” so that we might have not only forgiveness of, but also cessation of, sin. Now he who does not abstain from sin, but persists in his evil life, must have a different Christ, that of the Antinomians; the real Christ is not there, even if all the angels would cry, “Christi Christi” He must be damned with this, his new Christ. (Luther's Works 41:

Who hasn't fallen prey to this fallacy? This is why Dr. Luther said, "Hence, whoever knows well this art of distinguishing between Law and Gospel, him place at the head and call him a doctor of Holy Scripture." And why Dr. Walther taught, "To rightly distinguish Law and Gospel is the most difficult and highest Christian art—and for theologians in particular. It is taught only by the Holy Spirit in combination with experience" (Law and Gospel, Thesis III, [St. Louis, MO: CPH, 2006], 49). 

HT: Fr. Weslie Odom.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Religion is Dead?

By Larry Beane

This postcard just arrived from Impact Church. On the back it says:

"At Impact Church, we don't want to add religious duty to your 'list' of stuff that occupies your time. In fact, we dislike religion as much as you do."  Yes, indeed, it is trendy to bash "religion" these days.  It's good marketing in the current cultural paradigm.  It's the narrative.

But what does Scripture say about religion?

"Religion (θρησκεία) that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27 ESV)."

Indeed, visiting people in their need is something that the sinful flesh dislikes, even as we like gimmicky "churches" that brag about "fun games, cool music, exciting Bible Lessons & More!" as this postcard shamelessly says.

The postcard also says a lot by what is not said.

There is nothing about sin, grace, forgiveness, or redemption. And the only cross to be seen is in the mockery of the traditional church, in the stained glass above the forlorn altar. And indeed, that is often the way Christ and His Bride are depicted by false, fly-by-night "churches" and entertainment hucksters.

Oh, and something else is missing. Or should I say someone. The name Jesus and the title Christ are nowhere mentioned, or even hinted at, on this postcard.  Can there be anything more scandalous and more damning than for a group claiming to be a church to completely ignore the Lord Jesus Christ?

If you want Starbucks coffee, rock music, dancing girls, and other forms of entertainment, you can find them in lots of places.  But if you yearn for depth and meaning, for transcendence and truth, for God's Word, dignified worship of the Most Holy Trinity, the theology of the cross, and "religion that is pure and undefiled" in the confession of Jesus Christ unto forgiveness, life, and salvation - you can find them at faithful traditional Evangelical Catholic churches that aren't sending out flashy postcards that mock and belittle the Bride while ignoring the Bridegroom.  We are not formed by the latest Barna poll or shaped by focus groups, but rather we are called by means of Holy Baptism, forgiven by the Word, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and covered unabashedly by the atoning blood of Christ.

The counterfeit 'impact' of entertainment-worship is clear when contrasted with the Divine Service, in the preaching of Christ crucified, and in the Holy Eucharist. Churches ought not be ashamed of the name "Jesus" nor of the Gospel that He has called us to confess and proclaim.  Moreover, according to James 1:27, part of "pure and undefiled" religion is to "keep oneself unstained from the world."  In other words, pure and undefiled religion is countercultural and cuts across the grain of marketing experts, focus groups, the never-ending quest for hipness, popularity, and what sells.

Gimmick religion is dead. But Christ is risen!